When it comes to getting the attention of prospects online and turning them into clients, two approaches always come up in strategy sessions – SEM and SEO. In fact, most of the time they are mentioned, it ends up becoming a heated debate – SEM VS SEO which is better?

Is one really better than the other? If so which one?

That, my friend, is my mandate today, clearing the air around these two marketing strategies and giving you the edge you need to move your business forward.

SEM VS SEO – Understanding the Differences

Let’s quickly take a look at the major differences between SEM and SEO. These will help you sharpen your online marketing focus. And as you know, those who focus on the right things get to direct traffic on the net – to themselves.


SEM – Fast Exposure that Wanes Equally Fast

Perhaps you are not exactly sure what SEM means and what it is. Don’t worry, I’ve got you. Search Engine Marketing has for a long time been the umbrella term for every internet based marketing activity, including PPC, targeted advertising, and even SEO.

But today, SEO is no longer categorized under SEM as it alone is another broad field on its own. So what exactly is SEM? SEM is basically every paid marketing strategy you use to give your business traction on the internet. That is why it is usually summarized as “paid traffic”.

The major advantage of SEM is that it gives you immediate results. It gives you fast exposure. Once you bid for a place on the SERPs, you are good to go. Your website or whatever page you are promoting is live and starts bringing in traffic. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. Once your budget or campaign comes to its limit, the exposure goes as fast as it came, and the traffic is gone.

SEM is a volatile marketing strategy that requires you to be on top of your game if it is to yield significant results in the time frame in which the campaign will be running. So how do you make sure the campaign pays off?

SEM Best Practices – How to Make Paid Search Pay Off

Ready to run a successful SEM campaign? Here are a few tips to help you maximize your time and money.


1. Keyword Research is Key

When you are marketing a product on the internet, it’s not just a matter of making sales. Many e-commerce businesses fail dismally because they approach their marketing from a sales point of view. People are tired of being sold to and they can smell a salesperson (and website) a mile away.

In order to sell on the internet, you have to solve your prospect’s problem.

Approach your marketing from this angle and you will see traffic like you’ve never seen before. Think like your prospect. If you were to look for your product, what words would you use in your search query? This is where keyword research will save your campaign. Target the relevant keywords associated with your product, including long tail keywords (which are good for voice search, but more on that later) and synonyms of the keyword.

2. Optimize Your Pay-Per-Click Campaign

Pay-Per-Click, or PPC as it is commonly known, is probably the heart of every SEM campaign. PPC simply means paying for ad space on the SERPs that are relevant to your keyword(s). When people are searching for something related to your keyword and they see your well-designed ad showing up in their results, they are more likely to click on it than if the ad popped up somewhere randomly.

This is the power of PPC and SEM in general – it is a highly targeted campaign. This will lead to a higher ROI on the campaign as most people who will click on your link are at the buying stage. So how do you make sure the right people click on your ad?

You have to optimize every little detail of your campaign so as to make it highly attractive to your target audience.

3. Create Great Ad Copy

Creating great ad copy is critical if you are not only to attract prospects, but it is also important in that it determines your ad placement on the SERPs.

The PPC component of an SEM campaign is more like a lottery, but those with a winning formula will always rank higher on the SERPs. Whenever a person puts in a query on Google, the Google AdWords algorithm digs into the pool of bidders (like you) and selects a set of “winners” to appear in the ad spaces on the results page. The criteria for choosing the winners is based on keyword relevance, the max amount you are willing to bid for that keyword, landing page quality, ad quality, and other factors.

This basically means if your ad is of a poor quality your chances of appearing in the top spots will be slim. That’s why outsourcing this part of your marketing is important. Sure, it will cost you a bit more, but it will increase your chances of getting the right traffic and thereby giving you a good ROI.

4. Geo-Targeting

Geo-Targeting is simply targeting local prospects if your business is location specific; say, for example, a plumbing business. This can be done either by including your location in your content or by using geolocation in your ad settings. For location-based businesses, this is very important as it will save you from paying for irrelevant clicks.

Andrey_Photos / Pixabay

5. Use Tools to Grade Your SEM Campaign

Remember, you are paying for ad space, and you want that ad space to bring in prospects that make the cash register ring. It is important that you get your campaign right before going live and one of the easiest ways to do this is by using tools such as WordStream’s AdWords Performance Grader. This is a really great tool that will show you where you need to improve on and what you are doing right so as to run a profitable PPC campaign.

A great example of a business that was built using an excellent SEM strategy is that of Sam Ovens, a simple boy from New Zealand turned millionaire consultant. Sam used SEM to build his consulting company from scratch to what it is today – a massive company that has produced 24 millionaires. If someone like Sam, an unknown entity (back then anyway) can do it, then you can do it too.

These 5 SEM best practices will set you on the path to drawing a lot of traffic fast. But sustaining that traffic on SEM alone will end up being costly in the long run. And that is where SEO comes in.

SEO – Strategic Exposure for the Long Haul

If you are running an internet based business you’ve probably heard of the term Search Engine Optimization a billion times before. But what exactly is SEO? In a nutshell, SEO is a practice that improves your websites exposure and rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

SEO summary
geralt / Pixabay

But is that not what SEM does? It is exactly what SEM does but the difference is that SEO brings you organic, or free, traffic. SEO basically deals with making your website and its content relevant enough for Google to deem valuable to searchers. Unlike SEM, SEO does not give immediate results. In fact, the results of an SEO campaign take time to show, but the good news is that a well-executed SEO campaign will bring you free traffic for life. So if you are looking to be in the game for a long time, invest in a good SEO campaign.

But, not every SEO campaign yields the same results, so how do you ensure your efforts and investment yield good results?

SEO Best Practices – Rising to Google’s Top Page

In order to stand out as a tadpole in a sea of sharks, you have to play your SEO strategy very well. You need not just one, but a number of smoking guns. Let’s briefly look at some of the key ones.

1. Content Will Always Be King

The backbone of everything on the Net is content. And every day more content is added. In fact, 1,440 blog posts are uploaded every minute. Quite staggering, considering you only publish one blog post a week.

With the amount of content on the internet, it becomes difficult to stand out – especially if you are just spewing out what everyone else is regurgitating. This is why you need to produce exceptional content that will answer searcher’s questions in a simple and yet interesting way. Although the cliché has been used to death, it will always be relevant as long as the internet is alive – content is king. But in order for your content to reign supreme, it has to meet the following conditions. Your content must:

  • Be Relevant. Don’t just churn out content for the sake of producing content. Do your keyword research well and craft content that is relevant to your target audience.
  • Answer a pressing question. Most internet searches are carried out by users in order to answer a nagging question or solve a Be their solution.
  • Entertain. Don’t bore your readers with bland content. Give your content a personality so that they feel they are talking to a person.

2. Your Website is Queen

If content is king, then surely your website is queen, and like all queens, your website needs to be “dressed up”. This simply means doing everything in your power to make your website attractive to users and search engines. This is what SEO is practically about. An SEO optimized website features:

  • Fast load speeds
  • Relevant links – internal, outbound, and backlinks
  • Mobile friendly
  • Good metadata and title tags
  • Voice search ready

3. Keep Abreast of Google Algorithms

One thing webmasters have learned over the years is that SEO is not static. Google is always updating its algorithms, and sometimes they cause devastating upsets that unseat some websites from the top spot to being nowhere on the SERPs (like Google Fred did). This is why you always need to keep abreast of what is happening when it comes to these algorithms, or at least have a reputable SEO agency handling that aspect for you.

This is just scratching the surface of what is needed for a great SEO campaign, but it should give you a good picture. One classic example of an SEO strategy that worked wonders is the story of Jacob McMillen. Jacob is a successful marketing copywriter who started off writing about cockroaches and earning peanuts for it. That was until he decided to use the SEO strategies he had learned to build his own business. Today, when you Google the word, “website copywriter”, you will find him sitting at the top of the SERPs.

These are the basic ingredients that make for a website that will woo the search engines and rise to the top of the SERPs. Again, if someone without adequate resources can pull this off, then you can definitely do better.

SEM VS SEO – Which Should You Go With?

Now we come to the important question, which strategy should you use? In all honesty, SEM and SEO are more like bone and muscle. None can function without the other. Sure, you can run a successful SEM campaign without having to worry about SEO, but that will not take your business very far. And likewise, you can run an SEO campaign without investing in search engine marketing, but your business won’t get the traction it needs to catch up or even overtake your competitors.

The bottom line: you need them both. So go ahead, make that call and engage a specialist who can help take your business to the next level.

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